Monday, December 07, 2015

ESSA--Now Less Crappy than Before

That's basically the argument for replacing NCLB with a new annual testing mandate. You no longer have to use Common Core. You aren't required to judge teachers via junk science. Of course, a whole lot of states, including ours, already do both. And there's nothing in the bill that says we can't continue to do it.

In fact, despite Governor Andy's recent lip service questioning the junk science he championed and enabled, state law would have to be changed in order to sidestep teachers not only being rated at 50% by junk science, but also being observed by complete strangers who may or may not have agendas.

Then you read things like this, which seem to demand prospective teachers meet junk science requirements before becoming certified. The fact that they are not, in fact, teachers of record is neither here nor there. Aside from that, it seems like a bonanza for private academies that want to churn out teachers with less training, fewer qualifications and less education. Surely there must be some way to juke the stats and make a few bucks. It's troubling that such concerns, rather than the education of our children, make their way into bills that merit serious consideration. Perhaps more troubling is that such things seem to merit union support.

Personally, I'm wary of anything that merits the support of so-called Educators for Excellence. This is a group founded by two former teachers who claim to represent current teachers, but take tons of money from the reformies to do so. Their main aims seem to be more work for less pay, having teachers judged on junk science, and making us as close to at-will employees as possible. They sneak into schools with the blessing of ignorant principals and claim anyone who goes to one of their events as a supporter. Why would a group like that support anything that would help us or the kids we serve?

Naturally, faux-teacher group E4E supports the movement toward taking action against the bottom 5% of schools, which has included things like closure, receivership, and placing teachers in the ATR or unemployment line. I see nothing about addressing root causes of student underachievement, which entail neither teacher nor school quality. I'm tired of seeing teachers and schools blamed for our abject failure to address poverty.

Then there's the shirking of responsibility for students with disabilities.  While teachers are regularly told the reason kids fail is our failure to differentiate, it's really tough to do so when all kids face the same assessment no matter what. In fact UFT President Michael Mulgrew told the Delegate Assembly that chronological age ought not to be the sole factor in how students are assessed. Yet in their zeal to avoid root causes by heaping blame on teachers and schools, the writers of this bill appear to have done just that.

Aligning standards for special needs kids with state academic content is tricky. I've watched this unfold with the students I teach, who do not speak English. I went to a curriculum-writing session in which I pointed out to the resident expert that there was no provision for me to teach basic grammar or usage to newcomers. She told me I should use first grade standards for my teenage students. This explicitly indicated the writers of the standards had not considered my kids at all.

The icing on the top of the ESEA cake is the limitation of 1% for alternate assessment. This arbitrary limit might be acceptable if there were no more than 1% of students with disabilities, lack of formal education, or lack of English ability. Sadly that's far from the case, so districts with higher percentages of such students will continue to suffer, and will continue to be scapegoated for the myopia and willful ignorance of this law. Charters will continue to counsel out and toss out such kids as pariahs. They will continue to take no responsibility whatsoever for the huge numbers of students on which their alleged magic fails. Public schools will continue to be scapegoats, and will continue to suffer. In New York, collective bargaining agreement will continue to be abrogated as we blame schools and teachers for government's failures.

Sadly, it looks like allegedly progressive mayor Bill de Blasio will cave to the demands of reformy Merryl Tisch and start closing schools again next year. We need education priorities in these United States that entail helping kids where they are, not one that makes the idiotic presumption that 99% of them are in the same place.

And we need an argument more persuasive than "now with less crap." We are educators and we need to demand rationality.

Or is that to much to ask?
blog comments powered by Disqus